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Family Matters: Chores


The other night I asked my 11-year-old daughter Grace if she wanted to wash dishes or cook dinner. I really didn’t want her to choose cooking dinner because I knew I could do it faster and get it over with sooner, and besides, I did not want to do the dishes! But she chose cooking dinner, so I let her go for it.

I gave her the choice between two meals I knew she could handle, tacos or Hamburger Helper. She chose her favorite, Hamburger Helper. I gave her the Hamburger Helper box, told her to read the instructions and stayed close by in the kitchen in case she needed my help. She was able to brown the meat, add the sauce, milk, water and noodles and let it simmer all without my help.

After giving thanks for our dinner, Grace proudly announced that she had prepared the dinner all by herself. She was very proud of herself that night and, even being the picky eater that she is, ate everything on her plate!

Kids are often more willing to eat foods they have prepared, and the process encourages communication and family togetherness. It all starts in the kitchen. Whether that means the young ones wash the greens or older siblings help with some of the more involved recipes, a little cooking camaraderie goes a long way. There are many easy tasks that kids can do in the kitchen to help you out:

• Washing fruits and vegetables
• Measuring using a measuring cup
• Pouring liquids
• Stirring with a spoon
• Cracking eggs (Kids love this one!)
• Setting the table
• Cleaning up after dinner 

Kids have so much fun in the kitchen – so don’t keep them out. Involve your kids with specific kitchen jobs and watch their culinary interest and ability soar. I think next week we’ll have “Taco Tuesday,” and I’ll let Grace be the chef!

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Family Matters: I Did it All By Myself – No- Bake Cookies


Building a strong foundation of skills early in your child’s life is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time and create unforgettable memories with your little ones. Turn your kitchen into a fun educational tool that your kids are sure not to forget – especially the yummy treats made with their own hands!

No-bake cookies are the perfect way to introduce your little ones to the basics of any recipe and even help develop life skills.

Planning, organization, time management and responsibility are all among a lengthy list of traits that correlate between executing a recipe and day-to-day tasks. Letting your children lend you a hand in the kitchen is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn and master a new skill. This boosts self-esteem, self-confidence and also gets the creative juices flowing.

The benefits of getting your kids involved in the kitchen are endless. This is a great way to accomplish a task and let your kids pave their way to some edible accolades!

You, as a parent, can easily give your kids the champion-like feeling of accomplishment that may serve as a launching pad to developing their hunger for success – not to mention you and your loved ones get to enjoy a tasty treat together.

Invite your kids into the kitchen and introduce them to skills they will use for the rest of their lives! 

Ingredients:

1 cup Food Club Creamy Peanut Butter
1 cup Food Club Confectioners’ Sugar
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter softened at room temperature
1 cup coconut flakes 

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl combine peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, chocolate chips and butter; mix well.

Take a teaspoon of batter and roll into a small ball. Continue making balls with the remaining batter. 

Roll each ball in coconut. Chill in refrigerator.

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Family Matters: Salad Sandwhiches


Recently, my boys’ father shared with me that he’d woken up one Saturday morning to sounds coming from the kitchen.

He got up to investigate because usually the boys will just play a video game or wake us parents when they get up.

Not this time. He found our younger son in the kitchen, preparing “breakfast” for the family. He knows better than to try to use the stove without adult supervision, so he was improvising with things he found in the fridge and pantry.

Spread out on the kitchen counter was his creation – Salad Sandwiches. Ingredients: Bread, lettuce and tomato.

He was so excited about making breakfast for the family that they went with it, modifying his creation only slightly to add bacon and make BLTs.

It got me thinking: I should give the boys a little more freedom in my own kitchen. They usually get to each choose one meal per week, but I execute it. Maybe I should just let them have at it and let their imaginations run wild. They’d probably actually eat what they made, too.

Win/win.



Family Matters: Monkey Bread – Kids Love This Stuff


Monkey bread has been around as long as I can remember. I have fond memories of making this treat as a kid. The whole house would smell of warm cinnamon, and my brothers would come running to pinch off a bit of this sticky and delicious dessert. 

Kids love this stuff, and it’s so easy for them to help make. They’ll have fun pinching off the dough and shaking it in a bag of cinnamon and sugar. They’ll have even more fun getting their fingers all sticky while they enjoy the warm, sweet, cinnamon bread.

So, if you are looking for a fun activity this weekend, get your kids in the kitchen to help you bake this easy recipe. It will make for some sticky and delicious family time!

Monkey Bread
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Serves 16

Ingredients
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tbs cinnamon
4 cans refrigerated biscuits
1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup)
1 cup packed brown sugar 

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9 or 10-inch bundt pan.

Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized plastic bag. Pinch biscuits into quarters and place six to eight biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Shake well.

Place biscuit pieces in greased bundt pan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the layered biscuits.

Bake for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes, invert onto serving plate. Serve warm, pull apart and enjoy!

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Family Matters: Turkey Cookies


Over the past five years, my little family has started a new tradition of taking a vacation during the week of Thanksgiving. Every year now, we travel to a different state or town to enjoy this holiday. Most of the time we take the grandparents with us so they can spend time with the grandkids and also enjoy the location whether it’s the snow in Colorado or the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

As we began a new tradition with my family, some old traditions can never change. My mom has to make the dressing, which is a recipe handed down from her mother. My sister-in-law has to make the potato casserole which is a recipe handed down from her mother as well. I have to bring the turkey cookies. Yes, turkey cookies. And no, it’s not a recipe handed down from my mother! Well, maybe the sugar cookie ingredients are handed down from her.

Since I was about ten years old, every year at Thanksgiving I would make turkey cookies. Which is actually sugar cookies cut out in the shape of turkeys and decorated with icing.  To this day, the family always asks if I’m bringing the turkey cookies to Thanksgiving.  Now that my daughter has turned 10, I am happily passing this tradition down to her!

Turkey Cookies

Cookies:
1 cup Crisco
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs milk
3 cups flour

Directions:
Preheat Oven to 350° F. Combine Crisco, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with a mixer until creamy. Stir in baking powder then gradually add flour and milk and stir until blended together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least up to 3 hours.
Lightly sprinkle an inverted cookie sheet and rolling pin with flour. Roll dough out onto an inverted cookie sheet. Press cookie cutter into dough and remove excess dough around cutter. Work excess cookie dough back into a ball and repeat process. Bake cookies for 8 minutes (they should not turn brown).

Icing:
2 egg whites, beaten
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until peaks form. Gradually add in sugar and cream of tartar until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape. Spread on top of cookies and serve.

Whatever your tradition is for Thanksgiving, remember that time spent with family is by far the best tradition of all. Share Meals. Share Life. 



Family Matters: Melted Witch Parfait


This month, to celebrate Halloween, we’re making a parfait that uses pudding, crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and orange sprinkles to create a spookie and yummy colored treat.

Top it off with a handmade witch’s hat, and you have a dessert all your friends will want to try! 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

• Food Club Vanilla Pudding Cups
• Orange Nonpareils Or Orange Sugar Sprinkles
• Food Club Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Crushed
• Black Construction Paper
• Scissors
• Glue
• Spoons
• Glass Parfait Dishes Or Plastic Cups 

Step 1

Spoon in pudding

Place vanilla pudding, orange sprinkles, another layer of pudding and crushed sprinkles one at a time in a parfait glass. 

Step 2

Layer with extras

Add sprinkles on the next layer against the side of the glass, another layer of pudding, then a layer of crushed Food Club Sandwich Cookies. Alternate layers until they reach the top and place a spoon in the parfait. 

Step 3

Cut, roll & glue cone

To make the top of the witch’s hat, cut 2 1/2-inch circle out of black construction paper, roll into cone shape and glue sides to adhere. 

Step 4

Glue cone to circle

For the hat’s base, cut out a 2-inch circle out of black construction paper. Cut two 1/2-inch slits in the middle of the circle. Glue cone to 2-inch circle to cover up the 1/2-inch slits. Dry and top the hat onto the spoon handles.



Family Matters: Tailgating At Home


With a husband and teenage son in the house who love football, most fall weekends are spent with the TV tuned into one game or another. And no, it cannot just be the two of them watching the game; both of them like to have friends over to watch the game — the more people the better! 

With all these guys over every weekend, I need something hardy in the kitchen for them to eat. One of my favorite recipes and theirs too is a slow cooker vegetable soup. This soup is super easy to make and everyone can help, even the young kids can get in the kitchen and help out too. 

Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:
1 Lb ground beef or breakfast sausage
1 family size pkg of frozen soup vegetables
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) box vegetable broth
1 bunch green onions
3 cups water
Salt to taste

Directions:
Brown ground beef or sausage and drain. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on low for eight hours or on high for four hours.



Family Matters: Grace’s Garden


My daughter Grace, who is 10, is my outdoor, nature-loving, recycling type of girl. She wants to garden, save all the animals and recycle everything in the house. So it didn’t surprise me, in early spring, when she started saving all the seeds from the fruit she had eaten. She would dry the seeds out and then plant them, hoping they would grow into big fruit trees someday. Most of the time, she usually forgot where she’d planted her seeds.  

This year, she planted cantaloupe seeds from a cantaloupe I had bought at the store. She put up some fencing and made a scarecrow to decorate her little garden. She watered the seeds everyday, and would you believe they started growing?  At first, I thought they were weeds or bull-nettles and was thinking about pulling it all up. But instead, I let her keep watering them and continued to watch them grow.  

I’m so glad I didn’t pull her garden up because it produced a handful of cantaloupe. And may I say, the best tasting cantaloupe we’ve had all year. My daughter is so proud of her garden and already has plans for a bigger garden next year. 

So the next time your kiddo wants to plant a garden, love on nature or recycle everything in the house, let them do it and give them the tools to do it with. You may just reap the benefits! 



Family Matters: Summer Camp At Last


Summer has arrived and kids are packing up for summer camps. My oldest child, Luke, has always loved going to camp. He has never had a problem being away from home for a week’s time. On the other hand, my daughter Grace, who is 10, has never had the desire to attend an overnight camp….not until this year. Grace has decided to attend camp as long she can take a friend and they can be bunkmates. 

Packing a kid for camp can be a real challenge. Unpacking them from camp can be even more of a challenge. The last thing you want is your camper to come home with a sticky and wet suitcase. I am so thankful I had a good friend give me her tips to packing up little campers. 

Packing For Camp – What You’ll Need:

6 extra-large resalable plastic bags
Sticker labels
Permanent marker 

On each of five bags, or depending on how many days they are staying at camp, write the day of the week on the bag. Pack enough clothes for that day in each separate bag. You should include a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and under clothes in each bag. On the sixth bag, write “Wet Clothes.” Tell your camper that this is the bag to put all their wet clothes in. This way their suitcase does not become a wet mess. 

I have packed up my son’s clothes this way for several years now and, for the most part, it works pretty well. However, there were years he came home with only two of the bags ever being opened. I guess he wore the same clothes all week. I’m sure this system will work out perfectly for my daughter on her first overnight camp experience.  Hopefully, she will not be like her older brother and come home with none of her clothes having been worn. 



Family Matters: Will Eat For A Snow Cone


Meat, corn, carrots and fruit are all the foods my daughter will eat. That’s it! She will not eat bread, sandwiches, peanut butter, cheese, pasta, nuts—nothing else! Oh, do we have a challenge packing her lunch everyday for school.  On the other hand, my teenager son will eat everything on his plate and in the house! 

Like other Moms, I come home from work and head straight to the kitchen to prepare dinner for that night. After slaving in the kitchen, I proudly sit dinner on the table thinking I have accomplished this grand task and that I’m truly an amazing Mom! Then out of her mouth comes the dreaded words, “I don’t like this, do I have to eat this, what is this stuff?” My self-accomplishment just went into the trash along with her dinner. 

I knew I had to devise a plan to get my picky eater to start trying new foods or she would be eating meat, fruit and those two vegetables for the rest of her life.  So she and I sat down and developed the “Will Eat For A Snow Cone” picky eater plan.

Here’s how it works. For every new food she tries, she gets to put a sticker on a chart, when she earns 10 stickers, she get a reward. When earning 10 stickers becomes to easy for her, then we’ll raise the bar to 20 stickers for a reward. Right now her reward is walking the dog 2.5 miles round trip to the snow cone stand. She looks forward to this every weekend and is working hard to earn her 10 stickers so she doesn’t miss out on her snow cone treat and walking the dog adventure. 

So in the future, I’ll keep preparing new foods for her to try. Hopefully she will find a few that she really likes. If not, I pray that when she becomes a teenager she’ll be somewhat like her older brother and eat everything on her plate too!



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